When he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, LeBron James said in Sports Illustrated,” I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.” As recently as 2017, he said his plan to finish his career with the Cavs hadn’t changed.
Of course, LeBron left for the Lakers at the very next opportunity in 2018.
Where does he stand now?
What NBA team would I never play for? I’m still playing, man. Hey, I’ve got to keep all my options open, man. But right now I’ll tell you one thing: I don’t want to go nowhere besides be here, baby. Be a Laker for the rest of my life.
By “Laker for the rest of my life,” does LeBron mean staying with the franchise until retiring? Or does he mean it in the Dwyane Wade-Heat lifer sense – where Miami remained important to Wade, even while he played for the Bulls and Cavaliers?
But after his experiences in Cleveland and, to a lesser extent,* Miami, it’s hard to completely trust what LeBron is saying here. In both situations, LeBron wielded his power to make big demands of the franchise. The Cavaliers and Heat depleted long-term resources to optimize LeBron’s supporting casts – wise plans that produced championships, but a strategy that had LeBron looking elsewhere as the wells ran dry after just four years.
*The difference between the stops: I don’t recall LeBron ever professing that type of commitment to Miami. In fact, quite the opposite. He was openly discussing returning to Cleveland after just a year-and-a-half with the Heat.
LeBron is 35 now. He’s certainly not leaving the Lakers any time soon. He might not be up for another big move in a couple years.
I’d just never say never with him. He has transformed every team he has joined into a power – both on the court and as a brand. Even if his skills diminish, his star power will remain huge.
It’s an ability that travels – if he wants.